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Sexual violence in conflict: Punish perpetrators, not victims


“It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflicts.” — Major General Patrick Cammaert, former U.N. peacekeeping commander

While wars are devastating for all civilians, women and girls are confronted with specific threats because of their gender. Due to deep-rooted gender norms, they are more likely to have their rights trampled upon than their sons, brothers, and fathers. Among the most abhorrent of these abuses are rape and other forms of sexual violence.

As the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, I hear the harrowing stories of survivors of these crimes every day. Their stories should haunt our collective consciousness. Rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, mutilation of sexual organs, and forced marriage are committed with impunity in many, if not most, armed conflicts around the world.

After being violated, many survivors are victimized a second time by legal systems that trivialize their trauma, and by their families and communities, who shun them rather than the perpetrator. Moreover, the victims and witnesses who dare to come forward and testify often face threats and reprisals.

No child should ever be forced to drop out of school due to the stigma she faces as a rape victim, like the 12-year-old girl I met in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. No survivors of systematic violations in rape camps should ever be forced to meet their perpetrators on the street, in the supermarket, or in their children’s schools, like the survivors I met in Bosnia. No survivor should ever be incarcerated for so-called “morality crimes” after being raped, as are many women held in Afghan prisons.

What these survivors have to go through is one of the great injustices of our time. Putting an end to these atrocities, however, has proved unsettlingly difficult because there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Ending sexual violence in war requires not only that perpetrators are held to account, but also a long-term shift in social norms and attitudes. This must be ensured both before conflict begins and during peace-building processes so that women can have their rightful say in what society should look like in the aftermath of war.

Ensuring medical, psychosocial, legal, and livelihood support for the victims of atrocities is equally important. This is particularly true for survivors of sexual violence who face utter destitution when they are cast out of their families and communities for being raped.

Wars may end, but the legacy of these crimes lives on. Throughout history, women have been excluded from peace talks, crimes of sexual violence have been sidelined from international prosecutions, and the stigma of rape has been borne by the victims, rather than the perpetrators.

The self-evident truth that women’s participation and safety are crucial to building sustainable peace is slowly changing “politics as usual.” We now see glimmers of hope, even in countries facing colossal challenges.

In the peace process between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), for instance, survivors have been heard at the peace table and mechanisms for reparations have been put in place.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the president has appointed a special representative to fight sexual violence, and the Congolese armed forces have adopted an action plan, which has spurred new education, training, and capacity-building efforts to end sexual violence.

In Somalia, the president has made a personal commitment to ensure that survivors who report rape will no longer risk being imprisoned, and that a specialized crimes unit and clinic will be created to deal with these cases.

We must learn from these examples if we hope to change the future.

© The Mark News

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Without belittling crimes against women, I am afraid this is still idiotic propaganda in femi-nazi wars...

I mean, just go to the US and visit a veteran's hospital. Men without arms legs or eyes and sitting in wheelchairs and suffering from shellshock syndrome...

And if that is not enough, then visit the countries that were liberated by the US and see how the locals are doing.

In spite of the inhuman treatment of women in war-zones, confronted with the real world out there, this article is insulting. Details can be had on the internet

Here is an excerpt from Felicity Arbiutnot's article on the subject:

“It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century, you just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.” (Secretary of State, John Kerry, “Meet the Press”, 2nd March 2014.)

Various professional psychology sites state succinctly: “Projection is a defense mechanism which involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people.”

Further: “Projection tends to come to the fore in normal people at times of crisis, personal or political, but is more commonly found in the neurotic or psychotic – in personalities functioning at a primitive level as in narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder”, opines Wiki.

With that in mind it is worth returning to the assault on Libya and the allegation by Susan Rice, then US Ambassador to the UN, in April 2011, that the Libyan government was issuing Viagra to its troops, instructing them to use rape as a weapon of terror.

However, reported Antiwar.com (1) MSNBC was told:

“by US military and intelligence officials that there is no basis for Rice’s claims. While rape has been reported as a ‘weapon’ in many conflicts, the US officials (said) they’ve seen no such reports out of Libya.”

Several diplomats also questioned Rice’s lack of evidence suspecting she was attempting:

“to persuade doubters the conflict in Libya was not just a standard civil war but a much nastier fight in which Gadhafi is not afraid to order his troops to commit heinous acts.”

The story was reminiscent of the pack of lies which arguably sealed the 1991 US led Iraq onslaught – of Iraqi troops leaving premature babies to die after stealing their incubators. The story of course, was dreamt up by global public relations company, Hill and Knowlton Strategies, Inc., then described as the word’s largest PR company which had been retained by the Kuwait government.

A tearful hospital “volunteer”, Nayirah gave “testimony” which reverberated around an appalled world. It transpired she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Washington and was neither a “volunteer”, “witness”, nor in Kuwait. Amnesty International obligingly backed up the fictional nonsense suffering lasting credibility damage. However, as Libya two decades later, Iraq’s fate was sealed.

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+1 volland. I would say getting killed or horribly maimed is a pretty severe trampling of rights. Drafts need to be universal (men and women) and we need to work to need drafts less (i.e. with less wars).

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I'm afraid I don't understand the flow of your argument.

You begin by talking about male veterans, emphasizing the plight of their situation. This is entirely unrelated to severity of sexual assault in war. Perhaps soldiering is more dangerous than being a woman in combat zones, but that in no way lessens the danger of being a woman. The quote at the beginning might be hyperbole, it might not. That doesn't change the fact that women are raped in war, and it's a problem, and it's in large part due to their gender.

You seem to be saying sexual assualt in war is not a problem because there are bigger problems. That is not logical. We would apparently disagree about the frequency of occurence for sexual assault in war, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen, and that it's not a problem deserving of attention.

The article talks about victims of sexual assualt being punished and ostracized after the fact precisely because they were victims of a certain kind of violence. The article calls for more attention to be given to this problem. How is that insulting people in the "real world"?

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So many times when an article comes up about the plight of women in some horrible situation you'll always have the "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN!!!!!!!" posts.

FFS, I'd put up a longer response but some people are beyond help with explaining these issues. Besides spbpb's response pretty much sums up what I would have posted anyhow.

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@spbpb I agree there should be focus on fixing backward legal systems, but this opinion article seems to go much further saying there needs to be action across the world. Here, proportion does matter. There is no "UN Action Against Violence in Conflict" network without the sexual component. Because everyone realizes the pointlessness of such a thing. You can't change billions of years of male evolution, pure and simple, and when you put men into horrible situations, you will see the worst out of them.

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So many times when an article comes up about the plight of women in some horrible situation you'll always have the "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN!!!!!!!" posts.

Maybe because the article goes out of its way to claim that war is more detrimental for women? Arguing against that claim isn't off-topic when the article itself brings it up. The fact that you have no way of arguing against the poster and have to resort to ad-hominem shows that his arguments are valid.

You begin by talking about male veterans, emphasizing the plight of their situation. This is entirely unrelated to severity of sexual assault in war

It's relevant to the article, which made claims that women were more severely affected by war.

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The article was one-sided.. so my response was one-sided.

What on earth is wrong with that...

@scipatheist "...and we need to work to need drafts less (i.e. with less wars)."

Nice idea, then mybe the american people should start this, by electing for a change a president, who does not like every war he sees?

America for its economic survival has used its army for at least the last 60 years. Any suggestions what they do instead and how to explain that change to the american people? Take a look at the candidates for next US president... Ms Clinton on one side, and probably Mr Bush on the other... "and we need to work to need drafts less (i.e. with less wars)."... really????

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Illyas I think it is a fault of the article's writing that it didn't emphasize this more clearly, but the article was referencing civilians in war, not soldiers. The opening quote, while framing the discussion, encourages the reader to think what follows will discuss the danger's of civillian women as opposed to soldiering men. However, it says at the beginning, "While war is devastating for all civilians, woman and girls are confronted with specific threats." Since the article doesn't seek to compare the experience of soldiers, referencing soldier's experience in response to the article is red herring. Moreover, only that first paragraph makes a comparative statement of any kind. The rest is entirely devoted to simply highlighting unaddressed problems of sex crime, of which women are almost entirely the victims.

@scipantheist Efforts to reduce physical violence in combat equate to efforts to reduce war, since violence is the currency of war. Would you agree that the UN spends a lot of its time trying to reduce war? If so, then proportion is not the issue. You also seem to imply that we cannot expect moral behavior from men in combat. If so, the idea of a war crime is ludicrous.

Suffering endured by soldiers is well documented and understood. We erect memorials to the struggles of soldiers, in the US, we have a national holiday dedicated to veterans. We provide for soldiers financially and emotionally upon there return (granted perhaps not as much as we should.) Sexual violence in combat, however, has no holiday, no national memorial, and is given very little time in the public discourse. This article decries that victims continue to suffer because of rape in war long after the war has finished.. That is the sort of thing that legislation can directly change.

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The article literally opens with the quote: “It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflicts.”

The article was making a controversial claim from the very beginning.

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